Shakespeare fest is worth the trip

When the gas needed to get to and from the theater approaches the cost of a ticket, I think twice. But I'm still heading up to N.C. Shakespeare Festival this month to see “Much Ado About Nothing” and “King Lear.” (Get details at www.nc shakes .org or 336-887- 3001.)

First, this is a chance to see specialists in Shakespeare take on his most complicated tragedy. Though NCSF is in its 32nd year, this is only its third “Lear,” because the play is both hard to cast and profoundly sad – or, to those who love it, sadly profound. The play will be cut, but even three-fourths of a “Lear” compels a drive to High Point.

Second, there's a good balance between the waspish comedy of “Much Ado,” in which Beatrice and Benedick cross the sabers of their wit until they see they're meant to marry, and the bleak horror of an old man throwing life and love away on empty promises.

Third, it's a Charlotte reunion season. Actor Graham Smith and director Steve Umberger, once mainstays at the now-defunct Charlotte Repertory Theatre, will reunite for “Lear.” Smith will also turn up as Verges, the comic constable, in “Much Ado.”

“Ado” opens Saturday, and “Lear” opens Sept. 13. Your can stay overnight and see both plays, avoiding an extra 170-mile round trip, Sept. 20-21. “Ado” is on Saturday night; “Lear” is a Sunday matinee.